After this hugely disappointing one point defeat by Carlow in the opening round of division four of the Allianz National Football League at Semple Stadium, Thurles, on Sunday, Tipperary face an uphill battle to win promotion.
As a general rule, to secure promotion, a team needs to win all its home games. To fall at the first hurdle, and against a side that played the last twenty eight minutes with only fourteen men, does not augur well for Tipperary’s chances, despite all the success enjoyed at underage level in recent years.
To emphasise the point, Tipperary have to travel to Waterford this Saturday in the competition, a Waterford side buoyed by victory last Sunday over Clare in Clare, and determined to make amends for their McGrath Cup loss to Tipp a few weeks back. Nothing less than a win there will be required to get this league campaign back on track after Sunday’s setback.
Tipperary expectations were high going into this game. A satisfactory McGrath Cup campaign which ended with defeat by Kerry in the final, suggested that Tipperary were in good fettle. As they forced the pace in the first half, aided by the breeze, and opened a six points lead nearing the break, everything appeared to be going according to plan, but then, in the space of a few minutes, things changed dramatically.
That opening period was most encouraging. With George Hannigan doing great work at midfield, and Alan Moloney and Barry Grogan deadly accurate from frees, augmented by the surging runs of Brian Fox from halfback, Tipperary moved into an eleven points to five lead after thirty minutes.
Carlow sought to crowd their defence against the breeze, but Brian Fox took full advantage of the scope afforded him to score three points from halfback. George Hannigan popped over two more, with Alan Moloney (3) and Barry Grogan (2) from frees making up the remainder. Peter Acheson had a good goal chance in the 19th minute but his effort was turned out for a forty five, while, earlier, Shane Redmond missed a sitter for Carlow in the 4th minute.
Everything was going according to plan for Tipperary when disaster struck as half-time approached. A Carlow free fell short of the Tipp goal and the defence failed to deal with it allowing Carlow’s Paul Reid to prod home the goal that ultimately proved decisive. In the 37th minute William Minchin added a Carlow point, leaving Tipp ahead by 0-11 to 1-6, but with the wind to be faced after the break.
It was a disastrous conclusion to the half for Tipperary and it gave a Carlow side that was in danger of getting “tailed off”, renewed heart for the second period. Most disappointing for Tipp was the failure of so many to find the level of performance required to succeed in this company. Particularly significant was the fact that none of the forwards scored from play in the opening half when generous possession was enjoyed but not always put to the most productive use.
There was an encouraging start to the second half as Alan Moloney pointed a free in the 2nd minute. Carlow responded with two points but then lost defender Kieran Nolan to a second yellow card, with Barry Grogan pointing the resulting free to keep Tipp two points ahead.
Points by Brian Murphy from a free, and a beauty from Eoghan Ruth levelled the game by the 39th minute, and two minutes later, Darragh Foley put the visitors ahead from a free.
Though Barry Grogan restored parity for Tipp there was no sign of Carlow flagging as Reid fisted over a leading point with eight minutes to go. Conor Sweeney, who had come on as a sub, again tied the game in the 65th minute, but a careless foul allowed Brendan Murphy edge Carlow clear once more, and when Brian Murphy extended the advantage to two in the 70th minute, it was clear it was going to take something special to save the day for Tipp.
Tipp never gave up and in time added on laid siege to the Carlow goal. Their only reward was a 71st minute point by Liam McGrath who had come on as a sub. They got no chance to build on this as referee Patrick Fox sounded the final whistle following the kick-out.
There is now no margin for error and the challenge for the Tipp lads is to put this setback behind them and raise their game in the remaining rounds.
No reputations were enhanced in this outing though such as George Hannigan and Brian Fox strove hard to provide necessary leadership. Alan Moloney and Barry Grogan’s free-taking was impeccable and while Peter Acheson worked hard in attack, little was seen of the forwards as an attacking unit. Liam McGrath did well when introduced while Ciaran McDonald also put in a good shift.
Carlow followers in the paltry 474 attendance, were delighted with their win, hailing in particular the performances of Darragh Foley, William Minchin, Eoghan Ruth, Benny Kavanagh and sub Brendan Murphy.
Tipperary – Paul Fitzgerald; Andrew Morrissey, Paddy Codd, John Coghlan; Brian Fox (0-3), Robbie Kiely, Ciaran McDonald; George Hannigan (0-2),Philip Quirke; Donagh Leahy, Alan Moloney (0-4, 4fs), Darren Lowry; Michael Quinlivan, Peter Acheson, Barry Grogan (0-5, 4fs); Subs- Liam McGrath (0-1) for Quinlivan, (43mins); Alan Campbell for Morrissey (53mins); Hugh Coghlan for Moloney (57mins); Conor Sweeney(0-1) for Lowry, 62mins; Aldo Matassa for Quirke(65mins);
Carlow – Trevor O’Reilly; Barry John Molloy, Shane Mernagh, Benny Kavanagh; Kieran Nolan, Derek Hayden, Tony Bolger(0-1); Darragh Foley (0-3,2fs), Shane Redmond; Ray Walker, Paul Reid (1-1), Eoghan Ruth(0-2); Brian Murphy (0-3,fs), William Minchin (0-2), Daniel St Ledger (0-1,f) Subs- Brendan Murphy(0-1) for St Ledger; John Murphy for Foley;
Ref- Patrick Fox, Westmeath.